alive logo

Gardening By the Moon

Lunar wisdom for your eden


Lunar planting has traditionally involved planting seeds by the stages of the moon. Today gardeners are using the moon's phases to schedule composting too.

The idea of gardening by the moon may elicit images of dancing naked around your blueberry bushes, asking goddesses for special favours. In fact, lunar gardening is actually based upon the moon’s gravitational effect on the flow of moisture in soil and plants.

Early cultivators noticed that seeds planted at certain times of the moon’s cycle sprouted and grew better than at other times. Through ages of trial and error, planting by the stages of the moon became as important as preparing and nurturing the soil. Today, many gardeners are looking to the moon’s phases for scheduling everything related to gardening–from planting seeds to turning the compost pile.

Hard Science vs. Gardening Wisdom

Despite the dedicated research work of Maria Thun and Rudolph Steiner in Germany during the early- to mid-1900s, there is a lack of hard science proving the benefits of planting by the moon.

This has not discouraged enthusiastic disciples. The Old Farmer’s Almanac, an internationally esteemed publication and the oldest continually published periodical in North America, bases much of its annual gardening and farming advice on the perceived monthly influences of the different stages of the moon. Published since 1792, the Old Farmer’s Almanac is still many a farmer’s beloved guide to planting and harvesting. Its charts, largely based on the moon’s phases and astronomical positions, support the premise that lunar cycles influence meteorological cycles, which, in turn, influence crops.

Louise Riotte, author of 12 gardening books including Astrological Gardening (Random House, 1994) and the classic book on companion gardening, Carrots Love Tomatoes (Storey Books, 1975), promoted and encouraged lunar gardening throughout her long life as a writer and gardener. Riotte heartily championed gardening not only by the phases of the moon but also by its signs, the constellations behind the moon.

Many people claim they achieve larger and tastier harvests when gardening by the moon–even if they have never danced round their blueberry bushes.

I’ve been gardening by the moon for more than four years. I don’t consider it solely responsible for my garden’s productivity, but I believe it has made a positive impact. Combined with my passion for composting, practising the basics of lunar gardening has helped to make my garden the heavenly place it has become.

Moon Talk

Did you know…?

  • The moon is a satellite of earth and shines with the sun’s reflected light.
  • The revolution of the moon around the earth makes the moon appear as if it is changing shape in the sky.
  • The different angles from which we see the bright part of the moon’s surface are called phases.
  • The moon passes through four major phases during a cycle that repeats itself every 29.5 days.
  • The moon’s phases always follow one another in the same order.
  • The moon has a much smaller mass than the sun, but it’s 390 times closer to earth.

Lunar Planting 101

Most calendars have moon symbols depicting the phases of the moon, from a new moon to a full moon. If you want to dig more deeply into the practice of lunar gardening, obtain a lunar calendar or gardening almanac that will show detailed moon information such as the constellations behind the moon.

In its simplest form, lunar gardening considers the phase or stage of fullness of the moon to determine the gardening activities best suited to that moon stage. A waxing (increasing) moon includes the first- and second-quarter phases and is thought to stimulate leaf growth. A waning (decreasing) moon includes the third- and fourth-quarter phases and is believed to stimulate root growth.

In general, plant annuals that produce their yields above ground during the waxing moon (from new moon to full moon). During the waning moon (from full moon back to new moon), plant bulbs and root crops, along with biennials and perennials.

Plan Your Own Garden Around the Phases of the Moon

First Quarter (waxing)

Plant annuals that produce above-ground, leafy parts and produce their seeds outside of themselves, such as lettuce, spinach, and cabbage.

Second Qarter (waxing)

Plant above-ground annuals that produce their seeds inside, including beans, squash, peas,and tomatoes.

Third Quarter (waning)

Plant annual bulbs and root crops such as onions, potatoes, beets, and carrots as well as all biennials and perennials.

Fourth Quarter (waning)

Also called the dark of the moon, this is not a good time to plant. Cultivate, weed, turn compost, prune, and cut grass.



Hollywood Balancing Act

Hollywood Balancing Act

Drawing on martial arts philosophy, Peter Jang finds mind-body balance in a decade-plus career

Shawn RadcliffeShawn Radcliffe